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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jane Doyle, 2007

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Object ID: WV0402.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Jane Doyle’s service in the WASP during World War II.

Summary:

Doyle briefly discusses her childhood and education, including her desire to become an architect. She talks about earning her private pilot license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program and joining the Civil Air Patrol to keep up her flying time. She also recalls receiving a notice about the WASP from Jacqueline Cochran and shares her family’s reaction to her enlistment.

Doyle discusses her WASP training in Sweetwater, Texas, including her impression of the city; flight instructors; zootsuit and dress uniforms; a typical day’s schedule; the death of a WASP; night flying; and the PT-19, BT-13, PT-17, and AT-6 airplanes. She talks about cross-country flying including one run-in with bad weather and shares memories of her graduation, including a moment with Jacqueline Cochran.

Of her time stationed in Seymour, Indiana, Doyle recalls meeting her husband; ferrying planes; living with army nurses; social activities; favorite songs; and her dog, Skippy. She talks about the disbanding of the WASP and gives her reasons for not joining the air force reserve. Other topics include: the mood of the country during WWII; her father’s German heritage; D-Day; VJ [victory in Japan] Day; the dropping of the atomic bombs; President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt; Jacqueline Cochran; and maintaining friendships with fellow WASPs.

Creator: Mildred Jane Baessley Doyle

Biographical Info: M. Jane B. Doyle (b. 1921) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, served in the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) from 1943 to 1944.

Collection: M. Jane Doyle Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Hermann Trojanoswki:

Well, today is Monday, July 2, 2007, and the time is about twenty-five minutes till 11:00. My name is Hermann Trojanowski and I'm at the home of Mildred Doyle in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I'm here to conduct an oral history interview for the Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Doyle, if you'll give me your name, I'll play the tape back and see how we both sound on this tape.

Jane Doyle:

Okay, well it's Mildred Jane Doyle but—and so I've always gone by Jane.

HT:

Oh, okay.

JD:

So, I—the only time I use Mildred is when I have to for official things.

HT:

Okay, all right.

[recording paused]

HT:

Thank you so much for talking with me this morning. It's a great pleasure to be here in Grand Rapids and meeting you finally, and chatting with you in person.

If you could, tell me something about your background, such as when you were born and where you were born.

JD:

I was born here in Grand Rapids on October 13, 1921. And I lived in Grand Rapids all my—until about 1942, when I went in the service. Well, I went to college in Ann Arbor, Michigan, too, from 1941 until '43.

HT:

Can you tell me something about your parents and your brothers and sisters?

JD:

My parents—well, my father came from Germany. My mother lived in Missouri. And they met when he came to this country and he worked for the railroad and he was working in Missouri. Shortly after they were married they moved to Michigan. And then I had two sisters and one brother. And there was five years between each of us, so I was the youngest of the four children.

HT:

And where did you go to high school?

JD:

I went to [Grand Rapids] South High School. That's the high school that President [Gerald] Ford attended. In fact, he and my brother were in the same class in high school and they were friends, and he kept in contact with us occasionally while he was a representative.

HT:

And do you recall what your favorite subjects were in high school?

JD:

Well, I think my favorite subject was music, because I played in the band and orchestra and loved it. And then I took quite a few art classes. And as far as the other subjects, I took them more or less because I had to, but I had good grades.

HT:

You mentioned earlier that you had—after high school you had went on to college.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Was that right away or did you work?

JD:

Yes, I went to college. I went to Grand Rapids Junior College first, and I wanted to go into architecture and so I took engineering courses at junior college, because they didn't have an architectural program, and those courses would be transferrable to the college of architecture in Ann Arbor.

HT:

What sparked your interest in architecture?

JD:

Well, my brother was an architect and he wanted me to go into business with him when I graduated, but I went into flying instead. [chuckles]

HT:

You mentioned earlier in the conversation that you actually took some courses in art or you—is that right—in college?

JD:

Well, I took some classes in high school, not too many. But I did—I must have—I don't remember exactly how many I did take, but I must have taken several because the art teacher took me to Pennsylvania to the Carnegie Museum with her for an exhibit that they had there. And at junior college I did take some art courses, also.

HT:

And so what year did you actually enter University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, I guess? Is that the correct—?

JD:

I went—let's see, I graduated in '39 from high school, and so '39 and '40 I went to junior college. And then the fall of '40 until '43 when I graduated from the University of Michigan.

HT:

And after you graduated from college, what did you do next?

JD:

I had applied to be accepted in the WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots] program, and so—but I couldn't get in until November. I finished college in the summer. I took eighteen hours to get finished in the summer so I could go into the WASP program in November of 1943. And from summer school ending in I think it was probably in August of '43 until November of '43, I worked for a graphic artist in Ann Arbor.

HT:

Well, what sparked your interest in perhaps joining the WASPs? How did you—how did that all come about?

JD:

When I was in junior college—that was in the summer of 1940, after my first year there—I had heard that there was going to be a Civilian Pilot Training Program. Because the war had broken out in Europe and they needed more people, more pilots, so that they offered this Civilian Pilot Training Program, and for every ten fellows they would let one girl in the program. And I got into that and got my private pilot license in the summer of 1940. And then when I went on to Michigan, I wanted to get into the advanced program, which would give you commercial license, but they wouldn't let women in that. So I joined the Civil Air Patrol just to keep up my flying time. And so I kept flying then to keep up my license until I graduated from college and went into the WASP.

HT:

Well, was it terribly expensive to take flying lessons in those days?

JD:

I don't remember just how much it was. That's why I joined the Civil Air Patrol, so that I could fly—they'd let me fly with anybody, you know. [chuckles] There was one woman, it was a professor's wife, and they called her the Flying Grandma. And nobody wanted to fly with her, but I did it just to be able to fly.

HT:

So I'm assuming you had to have so many hours per—

JD:

You had to have thirty-five hours per year to keep up your license.

HT:

And so there were no recruit posters or anything like that—

JD:

No.

HT:

—for the WASPs like there were for the WACs [Women's Army Corps] and the other—?

JD:

No that's, let's see—it was about 1942, I believe, the first part of '42 that I got a notice from Jacqueline Cochran. She was contacting any woman that had a private license to—if they were interested in the WASP program. Because she—Nancy Love had already started the WAF [Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron] program, which was the ferry service for women pilots that had five hundred hours of flying which would give them a commercial license. And Jacqueline Cochran felt that women with fewer hours could be trained to fly the military planes, so she sent out a notice to anybody that had a private license. And when she contacted me, then I wrote back that I was interested, and I followed through on that.

HT:

Now when you finally did join—were able to join, did your parents have to sign, or could you do that on your own? Do you recall? I know I've talked to other women who were under the age of twenty-one.

JD:

Well see, I would have been twenty-one at the time. Actually, I was twenty-two, I think, probably.

HT:

Oh, okay. Well, when you first joined, did you have to take any sort of written test or—?

JD:

Just the physical.

HT:

Physical.

JD:

Yes. I had to go to Selfridge Field for that.

HT:

And where is that?

JD:

It's in Mount Clemens, Michigan, just outside Detroit.

HT:

Do you recall anything about the physical test?

JD:

No, except I had to go from Ann Arbor over there. And, of course, at that time I didn't have a car or anything, so I had to find transportation over there to get my physical. And then it was just over and back in one day, and somebody must have taken me to do it. I don't remember who it was.

HT:

So what was the next thing after the physical? Would you recall the next steps?

JD:

Well then I just had to wait until I got notice that I was accepted.

HT:

So you went back home, I guess?

JD:

Well, I stayed in Ann Arbor. I worked in Ann Arbor that summer.

HT:

Oh, that's right. Well, what did you family and parents and brothers and sisters and friends think about you wanting to join the WASP?

JD:

They—I was trying so many different things. My family, they encouraged me in anything I wanted to try. And my brother, at that time, was in the navy. And my sister, my oldest sister was in the Red Cross in Texas. And so, my family were very patriotic people, and they were proud to have us serve.

HT:

And did you ever give any thought to joining the WACs or the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], or any of the military branches that were open for women?

JD:

No, because I had promised my parents that I would finish college. And as I say, my brother was an architect and he wanted me to go in with him, so I was—I planned on doing that, but I went into interior design instead. And so I was more or less ready to start out in the professional world.

HT:

Well, what do you recall about after you were accepted and went to Texas for basic—for your, what was basic training? What do you recall about that period of time?

JD:

I remember taking the train out there because we had to stand most of the way. The trains were so crowded with troops being moved from one part of the country to another. And with my father having worked for the railroad, he got me a pass to take the train to Sweetwater.

HT:

Now if you hadn't gotten the pass, would you have had to pay your own way?

JD:

Yes, yes. And then when I got there, I—it was one hotel in town on the corner, downtown in Sweetwater. And I got there late in the afternoon and the next morning they picked us up in the, what they called the cattle wagon, the bus, and took us out to the field.

HT:

And now, was that the first time that you had been out of Michigan? Had you done any travelling before?

JD:

No, I had been out of Michigan before. But my mother would take an extended trip every year because with the railroad you could get a pass on other lines once a year. And so in fact, our only means of transportation all our lives while growing up was the train because we didn't have a car. And so I took a lot of train rides. And every year we went somewhere. We went to California; when I graduated from high school she took us on a trip to California and then Oregon and Washington, the state of Washington. So I had travelled some before that.

HT:

But you'd never been to Texas before.

JD:

No.

HT:

What did you think of—do you recall what your impression was of Sweetwater and Texas and that sort of thing?

JD:

I didn't think much of Sweetwater. It was out in the middle of nowhere and it was windy and dusty. But we didn't get into town very often. I think we'd gone sometimes on the weekend, but most of the time we just stayed at the base out there.

HT:

When you got there that morning do you recall what your first thought was about Avenger Field, the base? Do you have any recollection of what that felt like?

JD:

No, I just remember going through the gate and wondering what was ahead. [chuckles] Because being a new class, I think there were maybe forty in the class, something like that.

HT:

And this was in November 1943.

JD:

Yes. There were a few girls from Texas in the class, and so they arrived—some of them had cars and they arrived there, but most of us came from the hotel in the cattle wagon down to the base.

HT:

And how many were in your class? Do you recall?

JD:

I think there were forty in the class to begin with. There were twenty in two flights and we were listed alphabetically in Flight A and Flight B.

HT:

And do you recall how long the training period was?

JD:

Well, from November 1 until May 26th of 1944.

HT:

And who were the instructors? Do you recall? Were they men, women?

JD:

They were men, yes.

HT:

Do you recall any—

JD:

They were civilian pilots that had—well, I know the instructors for the primary training that I took in the Civilian Pilot Training course, too, they were the regular civilian instructors at the airport. And a lot of them went into the service, but they couldn't go in as commissioned officers; they went in as warrant officers. And yet they had a, you know, regular pilot's license and everything, but because they hadn't gone through the military training, they were warrant officers rather than commissioned lieutenants. And some of the officers on the base were the warrant officers, also. But then most of them were just—the instructors were just regular civilian pilot instructors.

HT:

Do any of them stand out in your mind even after all these years?

JD:

I don't remember the—I don't remember my first one in primary training, but I remember the one I had for instrument and advanced. Well, the first one was, too, yeah, I remember him. They were all very nice.

HT:

Were you issued some form of uniform or did you wear civilian clothes?

JD:

During training we just wore our uniform was a zootsuit. It was a coverall that was leftover from the cadets that had been there. They were all men's sizes, so for some people they fit but for others like myself, being short, they were sort of baggy. And then our we did have khaki pants that we had to purchase and a white shirt for when we had to, you know—I can't think of the word now—Anyhow, when we had the ceremonies at the field, then we wore our khaki pants and white shirt.

HT:

Like a sort of dress uniform.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Yes, that sort of thing.

JD:

But no other uniform, it was just for the parades and things.

HT:

Do you recall what a typical day was like? What you did in the morning and afternoons and that sort of thing, the evenings?

JD:

Well the way the flights were scheduled, flight training was scheduled, one week we would be in the morning and the other week it would be in the afternoon, so it would change between the two different flights. And in the mornings when we got up, lots of times I think it was about six o'clock we had to get up, and we'd go to the mess hall to eat and then go right down to the flight line. And then on the other days we would go to ground school in the morning, and so we would alternate. Ground school and PT, physical training, we had that every day.

HT:

And how long did that last, PT?

JD:

That was probably at least an hour. And we had the different ground school classes, maintenance, and communications, and navigations, all the different—the same program that the cadets would go through.

HT:

And do you—when you went from, say, the ground school classes to the dining halls, did you have to march?

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Oh. It was like—just like regular military?

JD:

Yes. The whole program was run on the same basis as the cadet military program.

HT:

And what about free time? Did you have any time that you could call your own, or were you always in class?

JD:

No, there was some free time. Especially with flying, because the way it was scheduled, sometimes you'd have maybe several hours. If you went up—if you were one of the first ones to go up for flying, like in the morning or afternoon, then you'd have time after that while the others were—but you usually stayed down on the flight line there and studied or watched the others come and go.

HT:

And what about in the evenings? Did you have to study at that time or was that your own?

JD:

Well it was mostly just studying. We had we had to be in bed a certain time. I don't remember what that time was. Lights out and Taps and so—[chuckles]

HT:

Well do you recall—does anything stand out in your mind about the flight line or flying and training and that sort of thing? Any mishaps or anything like that?

JD:

The only mishap was one girl in our class that was involved in a midair collision and was killed. And it was right before graduation, and of course somebody had to accompany the body home. The parents had to pay for the body being transported home, but somebody would go with her. And I was asked to go with her, but then one of the other girls that lived in Texas was going to be in the next class because of some time off that she'd had for illness or something; anyhow, she volunteered to do it so that I could graduate with my class.

HT:

That must have been very demoralizing to have a friend killed like that. How did that happen exactly? Do you recall what—?

JD:

Well, it was one of the first—first year—class students that had just come, and we were coming in for a landing and this other younger student just flew into her. See, we came in on two different sides of the field, and the one that was in—she wasn't in the advanced program. She was in a smaller plane, but she flew into her. And she was coming in for a landing.

HT:

Was the other pilot hurt as well?

JD:

Yes, they were both killed.

HT:

Oh, they were both killed. Good grief. Oh, good gracious.

JD:

I know I had just come down from flying, too, and I heard about it. So it kind of shook us all up because she was a real nice girl, a close friend.

HT:

That, I'm sure, was quite bad. Well, what were some of the planes like that you had to train in?

JD:

Well, the first plane was a PT-19, old Fairchild. And for that flight training we went out to an auxiliary base which was out in nowhere and there was just a real [outhouse—corrected by veteran] there. And we flew all our flights out of that base. And then our base—[redacted by veteran]. Well, we flew that PT-19 for about seven hours I think, and then for some reason they decided to bring in the Stearman, the PT-17 instead, because they said it was—well, it was a heavier plane and you could do the acrobatics in it more than in the Fairchild. So they brought the Stearman in for the rest of our primary training. I think our primary training was like thirty hours or something. I don't know. I've lost track of time on that. It's in my log book, how many hours we had in each phase.

But from there then we went—from there we went right to the advanced. We were the first class that they tried going right from the primary to advanced, which was the AT-6 [also known as the T-6 Texan]. So we went into the AT-6 and did all our cross-country and aerobatics and that in the AT-6. And then we went back to the basic trainer for instruments. And from our class on then, they did that for the program. Before, they would do the instrument training and then go to the advanced.

HT:

What was your favorite plane? Do you recall?

JD:

Well I liked that old PT-17. [laughter] PT-19, I liked that. I liked the Stearman, too. That was okay, and the AT-6. The BT-13, I forget what they call it, but it was loud. It was noisy and it was a bulky plane.

HT:

You said it was BT, like in “boy” “tom” 13?

JD:

Basic. BT, basic.

HT:

Okay.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Thirteen.

JD:

Yes. See the advanced was—the primary—the PT was the primary and the BT was the basic and the A was the advanced.

HT:

Oh, okay.

JD:

Yes, but as I say, with our class they decided to try us to go right from the primary to the advanced plane.

HT:

And how far did you—were you—did you go out for the afternoon or overnight during this time?

JD:

Well, on our cross-countries we did some one-day cross countries, over and back, and that was mostly around Texas. But then we did an extended cross-country, and that was four days, and we flew over—I know we went to Atlanta, Georgia, and I think some place—we had several different stops on that.

HT:

Did you fly in formation?

JD:

No. No, we didn't have any formation flying. On that extended cross-country, the weather got bad. It was in the spring of the year, and it was the time of floods around Mississippi and Georgia and that, and we had to fly over all this flooded area. And that was a little scary, because on the flight from—before we got to Atlanta, it was all water underneath and the clouds kept coming down lower and lower, and if they—the minimum we could fly was a thousand feet, and I think I was just at a thousand feet right under the clouds and I thought, “If it comes down any lower we'll have to find an auxiliary field to land.” So there were quite a few that didn't make it through on that leg of the flight; they had to land at other fields, but I did get through on that one. With the clouds getting lower and the water underneath, why, it was a little hairy.

HT:

I guess so. And you were flying alone at this time?

JD:

Alone, yes.

HT:

But that other plane—

JD:

I think it was a thousand mile cross-country that we had.

HT:

Yes. And once you got to Atlanta, what did you do there?

JD:

We just stayed overnight there then?

HT:

And then came back?

JD:

Yes, came back.

HT:

Did you do any night flying?

JD:

Yes, we had night flight training.

HT:

And what was that like?

JD:

Because those that went into the ferrying command, a lot of them would be, you know, flying at night. And that was with lights off on the plane. We'd come in and they had the—and sometimes with the runway, too. The lights were off on the runway and not on the plane, so we had to train for that.

Would you like a cup of coffee or anything? I have some coffee.

HT:

No, thank you. This is fine, thanks.

Well, this all sounds very interesting. So anything else unusual happen while you were still training in the spring of '44.

JD:

No, I had an oil line break on the plane and it came in and—but I got down all right before it did any damage.

HT:

What does that mean? Just an oil line ruptured?

JD:

Yes. It was oil spewed all over [the front of the plane?] when I came down. [chuckles]

HT:

And then what was graduation like in the spring of 1944.

JD:

It was a very nice ceremony with all the flights passing in review of the reviewing stand, and Jacqueline Cochran was there. She didn't come to all the graduations, but she was at ours to present us our wings. And we had a like—I think it was probably in the gym that they set up seats, and there was a like a stage that we went up on and we were presented our wings. And it was interesting because when she gave me my wings, she looked at me and she said, “How did you get in?” because I just met the height requirement. I had to stretch to reach the height requirement.

HT:

What was the height requirement?

JD:

The height requirement was five [foot] two and a half [inches]. And I was really about five two, but I could stretch that half inch. With flying, too, I had to always use three cushions to reach the pedals. [pause] Everybody kidded me. In fact, when I was in the first class here to get my license, my pilot license, I always had to have cushions. And when I finished and got my private license the instructor gave me three little pillows as a present to remind me, “Always take your cushions with you.”

HT:

And after you graduated, where did you go next?

JD:

Well, I graduated the twenty-sixth of May, and we were supposed to report, I think, to our other base the second of June, but I got a notice and I think it was the sixth of June that I had to report to Seymour, Indiana, which was an advance twin engine school. And I went there to get the twin engine training, and then was supposed to go on to Orlando—Panama City, Florida, to the B-26s for tow target.

HT:

And where is Seymour, Indiana, exactly?

JD:

It's between Indianapolis and Louisville. Just about sixty miles between—sixty miles south of Indianapolis and north of Louisville.

HT:

And was that an air force base?

JD:

Yes, it was.

HT:

Army air force base, yes. And what did you do there exactly?

JD:

Well, I worked at the engineering hangers doing test flights. Some of it was slow time. After an engine change a plane had to be taken out and flown so many hours, slow time. Which, just to break it in, [other times—added by veteran] if a cadet came in and said that there was something wrong with the plane, why, I'd take it up to check it out to see what was wrong. And then sometimes I did administrative flights with flying personnel from the base who weren't flying personnel. The supply officer I took several times to get supplies at another base.

HT:

And do you recall what some of those other bases were? Were they all in this part of the country or were they—?

JD:

I know Cincinnati was one, Columbus was one. One was in Texas. I don't remember what the name of the town was in Texas. And I flew down to Louisville a couple times.

HT:

Did anything unusual happen on any of these flights that stand out in your mind?

JD:

Well, when I went—you should ask him. I think it was Columbus, Ohio. When I landed I had a flat tire on the plane, and so I had to call back to the base and they were going to bring in a tire up. And then at the same time they were a group of the other pilots from the base had gone to Rome, New York, to pick up planes to take out to Oklahoma to—for storage—AT-9s that they were going to put in storage. And my husband happened to be one of those pilots. And they all landed in Columbus, Ohio, so I went with them on the AT-9 to take it out to storage and then fly him back on the base in Indiana.

HT:

So is that how you and your husband met?

JD:

We met at—he—when I got so many hours in the AT-10s [corrected by veteran], I had to go up for a test check flight and one of the other pilot-instructors was supposed to take me up and he talked him into letting him do it. And so that's how we met. [chuckles]

HT:

And that was at Seymour?

JD:

Seymour, Indiana.

HT:

At Seymour.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Because I think you said earlier he was an instructor there. You told me that.

JD:

Yes. And, well he had several times—I had lived in the nurses' quarters when I was at Seymour, because they didn't have any place for me. And so they put me up in the nurses' quarters, and that was maybe half a mile down to the flight line, and so I always walked down there. He tried to pick me up a couple times to give me a ride down and I said, “No.” But then when he was my check pilot, I got to know him. [chuckles]

HT:

And were there other WASPs on the base with you?

JD:

There were two others.

HT:

Two others. And both of you stayed in the nurses' quarters.

JD:

No, they stayed—the other two had been there a couple months. They were in an earlier class and they had rented a house in town.

HT:

And did you have to pay to stay at the nurses' quarters or was that—

JD:

No, I didn't have to pay.

HT:

You didn't have to pay there because you were on base. And what did the nurses think about having a WASP live with them. Do you remember the reaction?

JD:

I don't think they liked—[laughs]. That—a lot of them worked the night shifts, and so they were sleeping during the day and I really didn't get to know them really well. Once in a while we'd get together and do something, but we were just on different hours, and I was down on the flight line most of the day and so. A few of them, I think, resented me but others were nice about it. [laughs]

HT:

And these were army nurses I assume.

JD:

Yes, yes. Air force nurses, yes. There were about six of them that lived in the nurses' quarters.

HT:

Well, other than meeting your husband there, did you—anything else exciting happen while you were there? Any of the trips or anything like that?

JD:

No, as I say, I worked at the engineering hanger and they had a sergeant that was in charge of engineering there or maintenance. Why, they were all very accept—you know, accepted the women.

HT:

I was going to ask—

JD:

There wasn't any resentment about that.

HT:

I was going to ask you, I know you mentioned earlier that some of the nurses didn't particularly care to have you there, but what about the men? Did you—were you involved in anything—I mean, not involved—

JD:

I think a few of the male pilots resented having women there flying. But most of them were very nice about it.

HT:

And how much time did you have to put in each day before you could do your own thing? Did you put in an eight-hour day?

JD:

Yes, we put in an eight-hour day.

HT:

So what did you do in your spare time? Do you recall?

JD:

[pause] Not much. Go to a movie, there was a movie theater on the base, and when we went over—we ate our meals in—or I did—ate my meals in the officer's club. And we played cards. And then there was little golf course outside of town and I did go out there and try and play golf a few times.

HT:

Did you have a car by this time?

JD:

No.

HT:

And did you—were you able to take leave and go home, visit family and friends, and that sort of thing?

JD:

On weekends we had time off, and I didn't go home any of those weekends. Except I did fly home one weekend for something, because we had to take so many cross-countries each month, extended cross-countries, and if I hadn't gone on some for the—during work—why, one time I did fly home then to Grand Rapids. I came home to pick up my dog. [chuckles]

HT:

And take the dog back with you?

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Oh, my gosh. And what was the dog's name?

JD:

Skippy, and the poor dog shook all the way down there. It was in the back of the plane behind the seat, you know, just shaking. But then after that, why, he wanted to go flying all the time.

HT:

Oh, so sounded like he became your mascot almost. Let's see. So this was in the summer of '44 that you were in Seymour, Indiana. So you were there during D-Day in June.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific? Well, I guess you didn't hear anything about D-Day until after a few days later.

JD:

No, that's it. I don't remember. I was trying to remember D-Day. I remember VJ [Victory in Japan] Day, but because we were on our way from Arizona to Michigan. We were in the middle of Kansas and it was on the radio. But that's it. It was hurricane season in Florida, too, and they brought a lot of the planes up from Florida there to the base. I remember that. But other than that, why, I don't remember now.

HT:

Now, I think you told me earlier that you and your husband got married later that summer in 1944.

JD:

Yes, in August.

HT:

And did you have to get permission from anyone to marry?

JD:

No.

HT:

Because you were considered a civilian so you could.

JD:

Yes, we got married on the base there, in the chapel on the base.

HT:

And did he have to get permission to get married?

JD:

No. No, in fact, the other WASP that was there, she got married the week afterwards. [chuckles] They were going to get married this week but my husband outranked him, so.

HT:

And did you get married in a base chapel?

JD:

Yes.

HT:

So after you—

JD:

So we didn't know each other very long. [chuckles]

HT:

Yes.

JD:

Now it's been sixty-three years in August.

HT:

Oh, my gosh.

JD:

It's—yes.

HT:

Well, after you got married, I guess you didn't live in the nurses' quarters anymore, did you?

JD:

No, we—there was a housing project right at the end of the base, and we lived in that housing project. And it was quite a housing project. They had wood cook-stoves and in the summer in Indiana with wood cook-stoves, you didn't use them.

HT:

So how did you prepare meals?

JD:

Well, at that time you couldn't get electrical appliances, and my mother happened to have an iron that she wasn't using, an old iron, so I turned that in and got a little electric hotplate. That's what I cooked all our meals on. So we—we ate most of our meals over in the officers' club. And it [the housing project] was full of cockroaches. [chuckles] The walls were very thin. The people in the next unit had a dog, and all night long that dog would scratch against the floorboard to get to the cockroaches. [laughs] That was quite an experience.

HT:

Did you still have Skippy at this time?

JD:

Yes. Well not at first, but later on, yes. Then I came up and got Skippy.

HT:

Now, you were still flying after you got married?

JD:

Yes. Yes, until Oct—the second of October.

HT:

And what happened then?

JD:

And that's when I resigned, because I had heard that the base was going to be closing and that the program, the WASP program, was going to be deactivated in December. And so I—let's see. The base closed at the end of the year and then we moved to Kansas.

HT:

Because you husband was still in the service at that time?

JD:

Yes. He went out there for B-26 training. [pause] That first year we were married we moved seven times.

HT:

Oh, my gosh. How did you—do you recall how you first learned that the WASP program was going to be deactivated?

JD:

We got a notice, a letter, saying that if the Congress didn't pass the legislation at that time to make us a part of the military, that the program would be disbanded. And they were quite sure that it wasn't going to pass, so. And when it was disbanded in December, why, everybody was just getting the notice to pack up your things and go home.

HT:

That was in December of 1944?

JD:

Yes. You could stay in and go to officers' training school, but you couldn't fly anymore.

HT:

And did some of the WASPs do that?

JD:

Some of the WASPs did stay in. Yes. And some of them stayed in the reserve, then. A very few of them though. Most of them just went back into civilian life.

HT:

What type of work would they have done once they graduated from officers' training school?

JD:

Work in the office of some of the—on some of the bases. I think one girl, I don't know if she went into [pause] to radio tower. What do you call it? Tower operator. But most of it was just office work.

HT:

Right, yes. And you never considered that, because you, I assume you wanted to continue flying if you wanted to stay?

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Let me see. To whom did you report while you were at Seymour?

JD:

The base commander.

HT:

The base commander, okay. Because you were civilian, and so you were just a little bit different than—even the army nurses would've had to report to an officer and that sort of thing.

JD:

No, I just reported—when I came up on the base I just reported into the base commander, and from then I was just told what my duties were going to be, and I hardly saw him again after that. I mean I worked under the sergeant there at the maintenance hangar.

HT:

And so he would assign—

JD:

Well, then base operations, too, when they needed someone to fly materials or supplies or something, why, I reported to the officer at base operations.

HT:

So it sounds like you did something probably a little bit different every day. When you went in you didn't know where you would be going, perhaps, and that sort of stuff.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Well, that sounds like it might be fun.

JD:

Yes. [laughter]

HT:

Well, it sounds like you really enjoyed—

JD:

I did.

HT:

Doing this sort of thing, yes.

JD:

That's it. And I thought if I couldn't fly, I thought I might as well quit. [laughter]

HT:

And did you continue flying after you got out?

JD:

I kept up my license for a couple years. But as they say, at that time you had to have thirty-five hours. But then to rent a plane—see, my husband was still in the service. He stayed in until—well, after the war then he was sent to Japan, and he was in Japan for a year. So I kept my pilot license and then just went out and rented a plane and flew. But it was expensive and I didn't do it too much after that.

HT:

Right. Well do you recall what the hardest thing you had to do while you were in the WASP, physically?

JD:

No, except PT. [chuckles] I couldn't do push-ups.

HT:

How did you get—how did you get around that?

JD:

I don't know how I got around it, but I didn't enjoy PT too much. But I got in good physical shape, that's for sure.

HT:

And I think you said earlier that you had PT every day.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Seven days a week.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Wow, okay.

JD:

Well, I don't know. We didn't have anything on Sunday, but except we did fly sometimes on Sunday. But we didn't have PT on Sunday.

HT:

And what about emotional? What was the hardest thing that hit you emotionally while you were with the WASP?

JD:

I think at the end there where I turned in my uniform, my parachute, had to turn in my parachute.

HT:

And, let's see, do you ever recall being afraid?

JD:

Just the time flying over the water for such a long period of time and the weather was getting bad. But I thought, “I can get through. I can go on instruments if I have to.” See, we had our instrument rating at that time. But, of course, according to our flight plan, the way—we were on visual contact, which meant you had to see the ground all the time to be able to land.

HT:

Would you—were you ever in any kind of physical danger that you recall? When you had that oil leak, the plane wasn't about to crash or anything like that?

JD:

No, no.

HT:

Okay. What about embarrassing moments or hilarious moments?

JD:

Well when I went up to Columbus that time, I had to stay overnight and went to the hotel downtown and they wouldn't let me in the dining room because I had slacks on. [chuckles]

HT:

And you didn't have a change of uniform with you, I guess.

JD:

No, no. I hadn't planned on staying there. I was just going to fly up there and go right back, and so they put me up in the hotel but I couldn't go in the dining room to eat.

HT:

So how did you get something to eat?

JD:

I went out to a little restaurant or a McDonalds or something around the corner. [chuckles]

HT:

Oh, gosh.

JD:

Yes, that was—I said, “Well, these are the only clothes I have,” you know, and it was a uniform and everything.

But, “Nope, you can't go in there because you have slacks on.” The women didn't wear slacks at that time.

HT:

Except for—except when they'd be working and that kind of stuff.

[recording paused]

HT:

Well, I asked you earlier how you spent your spare time while you were in basic training. But how—what did you do for fun and that sort of thing while you were at Seymour?

JD:

What did I do what?

HT:

What did you do for fun or during your spare time while you were stationed at Seymour?

JD:

Well, there were a whole group that would get together in the evenings and they were friends of my husband's, who wasn't my husband then, but they invited me to do different things with them, several families that invited me to come over and eat with them and do different things with them, so.

HT:

Well, do you recall what you favorite songs, movies, and dances were in those days?

JD:

No, I don't. What was it? Glenn Miller's orchestra, the big bands. Glenn Miller's brother had been in school with me in Ann Arbor that summer that I was down there, and so I got to know him. I don't remember what classes it was that we were in. See, I played in the band in Michigan, too, but I played in the concert band because they wouldn't let women in the marching band at that time. Music, I enjoyed playing in the band and orchestra, and so that was what I did mostly for entertainment in college and in high school. I mean, it was just something I really liked. And I got into several groups, quartets and things like that, too, so.

HT:

And why wouldn't they let women into the marching band at Ann—in Michigan?

JD:

They didn't want women. [chuckles] In fact, in high school I was the first one in the band here in Grand Rapids. The music teacher—my brother had been in the band and was a good friend of the music teacher, and so when I went to high school I played the French horn, and the music teacher wanted me in the band there in high school, and I had to go to the principal to get permission to be in the band there. And so then after I got in, there were two other girls that were in. And he says, “You can be in the band, but you can't wear—you have to wear skirts.” So, you know, we did that.

HT:

Well, do you recall what the general mood of the country was like during WWII?

JD:

I think everybody was just supportive of the war and supportive of our efforts and did everything they could to help the troops. There was a few conscientious objectors, but most of the fellows were willing to go in and serve.

HT:

I think you mentioned earlier that you had a brother in the navy, is that correct? Did any of your other siblings—and you had a sister that was in the Red Cross I believe you said, right?

JD:

Yes.

HT:

And how long did she stay in the Red Cross? Do you recall?

JD:

Oh, it was two or three years. She had been going down to Battle Creek from Grand Rapids there. She was a teacher and she would drive to Battle Creek once a week to go down, and there were several of them that went and worked with fellows in the hospital down there. Then she—that was, I think that was probably through the Red Cross, too. And then she decided to—then she worked in one of the hospitals in Oklahoma as a Red Cross worker.

HT:

I think you mentioned earlier that your father was German born. Did he ever have any problems during the war because he was—I'm assuming he was [unclear].

JD:

No, not in World War II than he did in World War I. From what I was told, there were, you know, that they had to be very careful. But in WWII, no, he used to send care packaged to his family over in Germany. And he was probably investigated in that, but he was a loyal citizen.

HT:

Do you recall where you were on VE [Victory in Europe] Day, which was in May of 1945?

JD:

Yes, that was, as I say, in the middle of Kansas coming back from Arizona. My husband had been stationed in Douglas, Arizona, and that's when they were going to send him overseas so he was bringing me back to Grand Rapids.

HT:

And what about VJ Day, which was in August of '45.

JD:

Oh, that was—yes, that's what I mean, on VJ Day.

HT:

Yes, VJ Day, that's Victory over Japan, and VE Day, that's Victory in Europe, which was in May 8, 1945, a few months earlier.

JD:

[pause] I don't remember.

HT:

That's fine. And do you recall anything about the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan? Do you remember those?

JD:

Yes, I remember when that happened. I don't remember, you know, the reaction of too many people about it, but I think they—at that time, too, everybody was supportive of the move that—it was Truman at that time, wasn't it?

HT:

It was, yes, President Harry Truman.

JD:

Yes. [pause] And I think that most people felt that it would save a lot of American lives and end the war, so.

HT:

Well, after you became a—well, I guess you were always a civilian, but after you left the WASPs—of course, by this time, you were married, what did you do next? Travel with your husband, I guess, to wherever he was stationed?

JD:

Well, he—that's it. That first year we were married he was stationed at Dodge City, Kansas, for B-25s and then San Antonio, Texas. I don't know. I don't remember what that was for. And then from Texas we went to Arizona for B-26s. And, well, at that time then, they didn't need pilots anymore, so then we went to Indianapolis, and he was a finance officer there, and then Champagne, Illinois. And then he went over to Japan. Oh, Oklahoma City, too, he was in finance in those times. And then he went to Japan for a year, and then he was flying again in Japan.

HT:

So you lived all these various places within about the span of a year, I think you said.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

Gosh. That must have been tough packing and moving.

JD:

We had—[chuckles]

HT:

A lot of packing.

JD:

—a Club Coupe and had a box built that fit over the hump in between the front and the back seat, and all our belongings were in this box.

HT:

You said you had a Club Coupe? What is—?

JD:

Yes, well, it's a two-door, but it had a backseat in it. Instead of just—a coupe was just the one seat, and this had a backseat in it, but it was a smaller car. It wasn't like a four-door, where you can get in the backseat.

HT:

Wow. And you always—

JD:

And you had to travel thirty-five miles an hour on retread tires, and I think we went through seven sets of tires going from that city to Douglas, Arizona, or back, one of the ways. It must have been on the way back, because that's it. We'd go maybe a couple hundred miles and have to get another tire.

HT:

And I guess tires were different all together at that time, weren't they?

JD:

Well, they were—unless you were travelling on orders, you couldn't get them. And they were all retreads and so all the sudden the retread would come off.

HT:

Oh, my gosh.

JD:

Yes.

HT:

And your husband—you say your husband finally ended up going to Japan. This was after the war was over, I guess.

JD:

Yes, it was during the occupation. He flew A-26s other there, reconnaissance flights.

HT:

Were you able to accompany him at that time, or did you have to stay back—

JD:

No, I had to stay home. I was all ready to go, but because he had no previous overseas time—they had a list and I'd just get to the top of the list and then someone would come in that had more overseas time and so I'd go back to the bottom. So I could never get over there.

HT:

So where did you stay while he was overseas?

JD:

I stayed with my folks here in Grand Rapids.

HT:

Grand Rapids. And when did he return? Do you recall?

JD:

I don't remember when it was. Let's see, that would be—eight, nine, forty-six-probably around Christmastime of '47. No, it'd be '46. Let's see. No, it'd be 1947 sometime.

HT:

And did you go back to work in the graphic arts area?

JD:

No, I didn't do anything then for years. [laughter] Raised a family, five children.

HT:

Oh, my gosh. That kept you busy enough I'm sure. Oh, my goodness. Did you not—did you miss flying after you stopped it?

JD:

I've always missed it. [laughter]

HT:

Did you ever take it up again after this?

JD:

I went up a few times with different friends that had planes. In fact, when I went to the reunion out—or the opening of the museum in Sweetwater in May of last year, some pilots came up from some place in Texas in AT-6s for a flyover during the ceremony. And so then the one let me go up with him during the flyover and let me fly the plane a little bit. After they went and did the flyover he says, “You want to take the controls and fly around a little bit?” So we did, and that was fun.

HT:

Well, if we could go back to the time when you were with the WASPs, who did you admire and respect a great deal, such as who were your heroes and heroines?

JD:

I don't remember.

HT:

Did—I think you said Jacqueline Cochran actually came to your graduation. So, yes, you actually met her, had a chance to talk to her—

JD:

Well, it was just a few minutes there after the ceremony then. She came to several of the graduations at—from the time that I was there, because each class had passed in review and everything in formation for each graduation. There was one each month.

HT:

Oh, I see. Well, have you kept in touch with any of your classmates from that period of time over the years?

JD:

Yes. There's some of them that are in Texas. You see the one that—who's daughter has done this Wings Across America [website], now, Deanie Parish. I kept in touch with her. And there's several in San Antonio, or not San Antonio—Austin. There was one other WASP here in town but she died a couple years ago. In fact, she's the one that was with me at Seymour, Indiana, the one that got married. It was strange. She had been an instructor. She lived in Utah and she had been an instructor. She was the instructor for the one girl that was in the bay that we lived in during training, one of the six of us. And so I got to know her just vaguely during training, because she was about three classes ahead of us. And then when I got to Seymour, Indiana, she was there, and she'd been there several months. And then she married one of the engineering officers and then I married my husband there. And after the war, when I got back to Grand Rapids, I got a call one night and it was—she and her husband were moving to Grand Rapids. And so I knew her here, then. And here we met in Sweetwater and she was from Utah. So we kept in touch here in Grand Rapids. Then there's one—a couple of them on the East Coast, one in New Hampshire that I kept in touch with. And at the reunion, when I went last year, why, it seemed like we hadn't been apart. I mean there were some of them that we hadn't seen since we graduated, and yet get together and it's just like old time.

HT:

Do you go to these reunions often?

JD:

No, not too often. I've gone to four or five of them. But this one was sort of special because this friend's daughter had started the—and she and her daughter had worked hard on this museum in Sweetwater. It's one of the hangars on the base where we did our training, and so I thought, “I want to go back out there and see it.”

HT:

So will there be one this year, or has there already been one?

JD:

It's every two years.

HT:

Every two.

JD:

I thought about that, though. There should be—it should be this year in New Mexico, but I don't know if it's going to be or not. I haven't heard anything. So it's probably next year that this—because they try to have one sort of on the East Coast and one on the West Coast or somewhere fairly close, in between.

HT:

Right. Well, what did you think about President Franklin Roosevelt?

JD:

I thought he did a good job of getting the country back on its feet with the CPT program—or the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] program and all the different programs they had. And then during the war, his efforts [pause] you know, meet with [Premier of the Soviet Union Joseph] Stalin and I remember that's at Yalta [Ukraine] and different things that he went to to—meet with [Prime Minister Winston] Churchill. And in fact, he was in Grand Rapids when he was running for president, and I remember standing on the corner of one of the streets on Wealthy [Street] and Division [Avenue] here in Grand Rapids when he went by in his open convertible, you know. [I] waved to him and he waved back. My family had been staunch Republicans, but my dad, for the first time, voted for Roosevelt. [laughter]

HT:

What about Mrs. Roosevelt? Did you ever get a chance to meet her or anything like that?

JD:

No, I didn't. Now, see, she was very instrumental in helping Jacqueline Cochran get the WASP started, because Jacqueline Cochran had won the Bendix air race and was invited to have tea with Mrs. Roosevelt, and at that time she brought up the subject of women in the military, you know, flying. And so she set up a time for Jacqueline Cochran to meet with President Roosevelt and discuss it.

HT:

So if it hadn't been for Mrs. Roosevelt, the WASPs may never have come into being, it sounds like. It sounds like, maybe, yes. What about Harry Truman? What did you think of him?

JD:

I thought he was a great president. I mean he said what he thought and he acted. [chuckles] And that's it with the atomic bomb. On that he was criticized probably—he is more so now for allowing that to happen, but at the time it was—had to be done to get the country out of, you know, stop the war and get things back in order in the country.

HT:

Well, are there any national, international events that stand out in your mind that occurred while you were with the WASP in 1943 and '44?

JD:

I don't know. Just like Iwo Jima and some of the—my brother was in the navy in the Pacific on a destroyer, so I remember some of those times in [the Battle of] Guadalcanal. And I remember the, the signing of the peace treaty. That was [General Douglas] MacArthur, was it? And when they met on the ship. The war in Europe, I remember, you know, some of the big battles. Well, my brother-in-law was in the war in Europe, too, and he was in Patton's army, and so I remember some of the times when he was with Patton that, you know, invasions and conflicts.

HT:

Would you consider yourself an independent person?

JD:

Sort of. [laughter] Try to be.

HT:

Try to be.

JD:

I try to be.

HT:

Have you always been that way, or have you become more independent since you were with the WASPs?

JD:

No, I was always—in fact, probably more so than I am now. [chuckles] When I was—I was always trying things when I was young. I'm a little more hesitant now.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer? Because women just didn't join the military before the war.

JD:

Well, at the time I didn't think about it, you know, but I—because it was just something I wanted to do. But like I said, some of the reunions and things now, and—well, like there was a Muskegon [Michigan] air show here a couple years ago and I was invited over to that. And the one woman that did the little aerobatics segment in the air show and then the other one that did the replica of Amelia Earhart's flight around the world—in fact, I went up with her in the plane in the fly over at Muskegon. And they all said, “You know, if it hadn't been for you gals in the WASP program, why, we might not being doing this. You're the one that got women accepted in for flying.” But at the time, see, I didn't think about it as that. I just wanted—something I wanted to do, so I did it. [chuckles] If I make up my mind to do something, I usually do it.

HT:

And I think most of the—most of the women who were in the service felt that way. I think you said you had five children. Did any of—have any of them been in the military?

JD:

Just the son. He was in during the Vietnam War.

HT:

Vietnam, okay.

JD:

But he never got over to Vietnam. He was over at—stationed out in Carson City, [Fort Carson] Colorado. Carson City? I think that's it, yes. I know I tried to talk my granddaughter into going in the air force but she didn't.

HT:

So have any of the grandchildren been in the military?

JD:

No.

HT:

What impact do you think having been in the WASP made on your life?

JD:

On my life?

HT:

Yes. And that can be immediately—immediate or long term.

JD:

No, not really much of an impact, I don't think.

HT:

Well, you probably wouldn't have met your husband if you hadn't been in the WASP.

JD:

Yes, that's right. [laughter]

HT:

That's a big impact.

JD:

Yes, that's right. That's true. And my one daughter's been really interested in everything about the WASP. In fact, that throw over there she got for me and she's the one that got started contacting Nancy Parish in Waco [Texas]. And she went to Sweetwater with me last year and she's been really interested in it, but the others just know about it. And that's about it.

HT:

Well, if you had to do it over again, would you do it?

JD:

Oh, yes. Wish I could. [laughter]

HT:

Oh, gosh.

JD:

I said, the Blue Angels [U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron] were just here at Battle Creek [Michigan] for an air show and it was—in the paper it was showing a picture of the one reporter from the Grand Rapids press that got to go up with them. And I keep thinking, “One of these days I'm going to see if I can't get up with something like that.” [chuckles] I tried to go up with the Commemorative Air Force once when they were here for a program, and I was all set to go and then they said no because of insurance liability.

HT:

Well, you know, these days women have such a variety of things they're able to do which they weren't able to do in your days. How do you feel about women in combat? You hear about women being injured in Iraq these days and that sort of thing.

JD:

I don't think they really should be in some—in actual combat situations. I mean, they can be in support units and things like that, but in the actual combat—if they had a family. If they're single, they probably, you know, it might be alright. But some of these women who have children, leave them with somebody else and go do it, I don't really agree with that.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Doyle, I don't have any other official questions to ask you. Is there anything you'd like to add to the interview that I haven't asked you or that we haven't talked about, about your time with the WASPs?

JD:

No, not that I can think of. [pause] No, I can't think of anything else. I think you covered pretty much of it.

HT:

Well, thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to talk to the WASPs and other women who have been in the military. I love listening to the stories. It's a great pleasure and honor. Thank you so much.

JD:

Well, I like to do it. So many people don't know about the WASPs. You know, you say you were a WASP [and] they wonder, “What's that?” [laughter] But more and more they're beginning to know. In fact, I flew down to Florida to my granddaughter's wedding a couple weeks ago and I was delayed in Detroit for quite a while, in fact. Got on the plane, and we got off, then we got on, we got off. It was several—had to wait till the next day to go. But in the meantime I was standing up—well, I went toward the toilet up by the cockpit because the one in the back was being used. So the copilot was standing up there in the doorway and I started talking to him, and I was looking in at the instrument panel on the plane and we got to talking, and I asked him if he knew what the WASPs were and he says, “Oh, yes.” And I was surprised. [chuckles] So some people know. And it's been surprising on some of the commercial flights I have been on, it's been women captains. And then when I went to the reunion in North—in Charleston [South Carolina], they took us out to the air base and took us on one of the cargo planes and they had an all-woman crew on that. So it's been an experience to see that women are doing it now.

HT:

And you made it happen.

JD:

Yes. [laughter]

HT:

Oh, goodness.

JD:

But as I say, at the time we didn't think about anything like that. I just wanted to fly, and that was a good opportunity to fly. In fact, after I finished and got my private license, there were a couple young fellows out at the airport that were doing barnstorming. So I used to go barnstorming with them, which was fun. Go out in some field and take people up for rides.

HT:

But did you ever go through a barn?

JD:

No, no. No, they just called in barnstorming because it was out in some farmer's field that they'd land on and take somebody up for a ride if they wanted or do some acrobatics and put on a show. That's it. I used to try a lot of things, but.

HT:

[laughs] Oh, goodness. Well again, thank you so much. Like I said earlier, it really has been a pleasure listening to your stories. They're always great.

JD:

Yes, well I enjoyed doing it.

[End of Interview]